Cavity and Tooth Decay
Cavity and Tooth Decay
Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Do you have aches and pains in your teeth? Do your teeth feel sensitive when eating hot or cold foods?
If so, you may have a cavity.
We know that the pain, discomfort, or visible symptoms of a cavity can be very unpleasant, but don’t worry:
We’re here to help!
To help you determine if you need dental treatment, we’ll examine a few different questions, such as:
- What is a cavity?
- When tooth decay creates small holes in your teeth.
- Cavities are a precursor to more severe tooth decay conditions.
- The second most widespread disorder affecting people of all ages.
- What causes cavities?
- Bacteria, food, saliva, and acid that combines to form plaque.
- Plaque that hardens into tartar and becomes more difficult to clean.
- Plaque and tartar release acids that decay your teeth.
- Some areas of your mouth are more vulnerable to cavities than others.
- What are some cavity symptoms?
- Aches or pains in your teeth.
- Tooth sensitivity after eating cold, hot, sticky, or sweet substances.
- Small, visible holes in your teeth.
- Sharp pain in your tooth while biting.
- Tooth stains that are white, brown, or black.
- Pockets of pus around your teeth.
- There may be no symptoms.
- What are the treatments available for cavities?
- Prevention through routine checkups and excellent oral hygiene.
- Dental fillings made from amalgam, composite resin, or glass ionomer.
- Extensive cavities may require dental crowns or root canals.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is a small hole in your tooth and one of the first signs of tooth decay. The U.S. National Library of Medicine relates that cavities are a precursor to more pressing conditions, such as:
- Fractured teeth
- Inability to bite down on teeth
- Pockets of pus around your tooth
- Loss of bone that holds teeth in place
- Infection of bone that holds teeth in place
- Tooth extractions
Cavities, or dental caries, are the second most common disorder next to the cold; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that cavities most frequently occur in the teeth of children aged 6 to 11, and adolescents aged 12 to 19.
Still, even adults should be wary of cavities. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes that older adults with receding gums are at greater risk because the bacteria can decay the tooth’s root.
What causes cavities?
Your mouth contains naturally-occurring bacteria that transform foods into acids. When these bacteria come into contact with acid, food, and saliva, it forms plaque, which is sticky and clings to your teeth.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine points out that plaque starts to form on your teeth as soon as 20 minutes after eating something.
When plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into a substance known as tartar which is much harder to clean through conventional means such as a toothbrush and floss. Consequently, the American Academy of Periodontology advises to frequently attend dental checkups, since cleaning your teeth on your own usually can’t effectively break up tartar.
Cavities form when plaque and tartar release acids that attack your teeth. If untreated, the cavities will grow, infect your teeth, and destroy their insides, requiring more complicated procedures or even tooth removal.
There are several areas on your teeth that the National Library of Medicine notes are especially vulnerable to cavities because of how easily plaque sticks to them, such as:
- Back molars
- Gum lines
- Edges of fillings
Therefore, you should pay extra attention to clean these areas when brushing and flossing your teeth.
Wondering how to tell if you have a cavity?
There are several cavity symptoms to look for, such as:
- Random toothaches or pain.
- Tooth sensitivity after eating or drinking something sweet, sticky, hot, or cold.
- Holes in your teeth.
- Sharp pain while biting down.
- Brown, black, or white tooth stains.
- Pockets of pus around your tooth.
There may be no signs of a cavity at all—unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have one.
In fact, the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that dentists discover most cavities in the early stages during dental checkups, so it is critical to visit the dentist every six months.
The best cavity treatment is prevention.
While some tooth decay can be reversed, cavities cannot, so routine checkups and good oral hygiene is essential.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. National Library of Medicine note several factors that lead to excellent oral hygiene, such as:
- Brushing twice a day with toothpaste
- Cleaning your teeth with floss or interdental cleaner every day
- A nutritious and balanced diet
- Limiting snacking
- Eating chewy, sticky foods as part of a meal rather than as a snack
- Avoiding sugary drinks, candy, and mints
- Using supplemental fluoride or dental sealants upon a dentist’s recommendation
However, if you have a cavity, the most common treatment is a dental filling, which is usually inexpensive, virtually painless, and preserves your tooth.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes that to repair a cavity, a dentist must remove the decayed tooth tissue and fill the space in with a filling material.
- Dental Amalgam Fillings
- Inexpensive, long-lasting silver fillings made from a mixture of metals.
- Composite Resin Fillings
- Tooth-coloured or white fillings made from plastic reinforced with powdered glass filler. They are typically more expensive and not as durable as dental amalgam fillings.
- Glass Ionomer Fillings
- Glass ionomer cement is made from organic acids. Dentists can only use them for very small restorations, but their ease of use and appearance make them a good option for these cases.
In more severe cases involving extensive tooth decay, cavity treatments include:
- A “cap” put over a filling made from gold, porcelain, or porcelain attached to metal.
- Root Canals
- If tooth decay destroys or infects the inside of your tooth, the infected material is removed and filled with a sealing material. Usually, a crown is put over the filling.
These treatments can preserve your tooth and are relatively painless.
Book a Consultation
Want to get our professional opinion if you have a cavity or not?
When tooth decay causes cavities to form on your teeth, it can lead to more severe conditions for people of all ages.
Bacteria, food, saliva, and acid combine to form plaque and hard-set tartar which release tooth decaying acids. This acid is especially dangerous for your back molars, gum line, and edges of fillings.
You might be able to tell if you have a cavity if your tooth is aching, sensitive, stained, painful when biting, or if it has holes or pockets of pus around it. However, sometimes your cavity may not have any symptoms at all.
Ideally, you can prevent cavities through dental checkups and oral health routines; however, if you have one, an amalgam, composite resin, or glass ionomer filling will be necessary to prevent further decay. More serious cavities may require dental crowns or root canals.
Therefore, the earlier you detect your cavity, the better.
If you suspect you have a cavity, book your free consultation with Highmoor Dental today by calling (780) 425-1646.